At PGCWWN’s conferences, training workshops led by experts in the field (such as Dr Helen Davies’s workshop at The F Word) are well attended and well received. In response to a perceived skills gap between academic research in contemporary women’s writing and an increasingly competitive employment market, the CWWSkills programme has been created. This is programme is tailor made and supported by the AHRC, the CWWA and a number of HE institutions.
The programme comprises 6 training workshops held at different locations in the UK between 31st August, 2013 and 12th July 2014. The workshops will cover publishing, social media and digital technologies, communicating within and beyond the classroom, careers and employability and creating new audiences for contemporary women’s writing.
The CWWSkills programme is free of charge and reasonable travel and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed. Please note that places are limited and the application process is selective, based on the quality of the content you input onto the form. The window for receipt of applications closes on 21 June 2013. Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their application in early July 2013.
Find out more at cwwskills.org.uk
Before, during and after our recent ‘The F Word in Contemporary Women’s Writing’ conference in Belfast, delegates and interested individuals were engaging with the conference theme digitally. Conference tweets, blog posts and exchanges can drop down the timeline, so to preserve the ‘moment’ of our event in the digital sphere, we have compiled an interactive visualisation of materials from social media and our own website in the hope that it may prompt more connections.
Alex Pryce, University of Oxford
The release of Kathy Reichs’ Virals was permeated with much controversy. Review sites
were awash with disappointment that it lacked the realistic ‘grit’ of many contemporary
detective novels, denigrating it as ‘Famous Five’ fiction. The debate surrounding the novel’s
apparent ‘quality’ was due entirely to readers’ violated expectations of the content after
Virals was publicised and packaged less as a Young Adult detective thriller and instead
as a continuation of Reichs’ crime novels, indeed trading on the reputation of her ‘Bones’
creation. It belied the content which apparently relied on well-used, genre-bound narrative
and character devices from children’s literature.
Despite multitudinous comparisons of Virals to The Famous Five, a more accurate frame
of reference is the Scooby Doo phenomenon: from the auburn-haired ‘Daphne’ in Tory
Brennan to the male-embodied ‘Velma’ in the geeky, technologically adept Shelton, Reichs’
teenagers exhibit all the stereotypical facets of the 1970s cartoon, and equally its more
recent protagonists who exhibit renegotiated gender boundaries. Indeed, to actually be
called ‘meddlers’ completes this teenage group’s identification with, and subsuming of, the
Scooby-Doo ideology which dictates revealing of the villain(s) and acknowledgement that
everything was never as bad as appearances would have us believe. Yet it is precisely this
type of genre-inherited stereotyping which Reichs successfully manipulates here.
These unwitting heroes, whose transmogrification from merely Scooby-Doo detectives
into comic-book superheroes with wolf powers, provide a reassessment of cultural mores
which posit adults as authoritarian truth-tellers and the wealthy as powerful. The teenagers’
contraction of the mutated Parvo Virus is unlike the interstellar disaster which alters the
biology of the Fantastic Four, or the inherited mutations of the X-Men. This is, instead,
an avoidable catastrophe caused by devious, illegal, upper-class adult profit-making and
misguided scientific principles, which warns of the potential dangers of genetic science and
also opens up the debate on animal testing. Equally, their discoveries of ill-advised, immoral
and illegal adult life-choices equip them to understand that the adult world is a confused and
perverse place to be.
It is not just the teenagers’ new-found powers but their very human trait of empathising
with, and wanting justice for, another teenager which sets them apart from the superficial
young adults with whom they are forced to go to school and for whom the inheritance and
perpetuation of class image and money is the root of their criminalisation and physical and
mental destruction. In the heroes’ rights of passage from intelligent yet poor scholarship
students to accomplished superhuman detectives, they embrace the challenges of social
integration and cultural marginalisation which affect so many people globally. Growing into
the role of detective, clearly, means acquiring the experiences to recognise and deal with the
problems which affect us throughout life and acknowledging that crime, and the motivation
behind it, is every bit as bad as it appears.
Ultimately, Virals exemplifies how Young Adult fiction can not only encompass adventure,
suspend disbelief and ‘speak to’ its readers, but that it is capable of challenging adult societal
expectations and values. Maybe the adult packaging which caused such derision was not so
inappropriate after all.
By Claire Cowling, University of Hull
At the end of last year, we asked for recommendations of your favourite contemporary women writers of short-form fiction. This was in response to the reading list compiled to celebrate UK’s National Short Story Week 2012 – and the fact that it featured a mere three women out of its eight recommended authors. To readdress this imbalance, we asked for recommendations from our Facebook and Twitter followers and – hurrah! – they suggested some fantastic writers, as well as specific stories.
Without further ado, here is the full list of contemporary women short story writers, as recommended by the PG CWWN:
- Ali Smith – The First Person and Other Stories
- Lorrie Moore – Birds of America (‘What You Want to Do Fine’)
- Emma Donoghue – Astray (‘Onward’, ‘Daddy’s Girl’)
- Jhumpa Lahiri – The Interpreter of Maladies
- Petina Gappah – An Elegy for Easterly
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Thing Around Your Neck
- Nicola Barker – Three Button Trick
- Angela Carter – Burning Your Boats
- Margaret Atwood – Good Bones and Murder in the Dark
- Alice Walker – The Complete Stories
- Daphne du Maurier – The Birds and other stories
- Jackie Kay – Reality, Reality
- Maeve Brennan – The Springs of Affections: Stories of Dublin
- Muriel Spark – ‘The Portobello Road’, ‘The Girl I left Behind Me’ & ‘Bang-Bang You’re Dead’
- Lydia Davis – Story and Other Stories
- Amy Hempel – At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom
- Nuala Ní Chonchúir – Nude
- Amy Bloom – A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You: Stories
A huge thank you to everyone who responded to our posts. We shall most definitely be asking for your recommendations of CWW in other genres and forms again.
The UK’s National Short Story Week 2012 runs from November 12th to 18th and this year they have put together a varied reading list that includes recommendations by authors and broadcasters as well as some new anthologies.
However, with only three out of the eight recommended authors being women this hardly seems proportionate to the vast amount of women short story writers whose work we know and love!
This is what was said of Lorrie Moore and Alice Munro, the two women writers on the list:
Tracy Chevalier: Self Help by Lorrie Moore (Faber and Faber)
“I loved these stories by one of America’s top writers. This collection considers the lives and loves of twenty-somethings primarily. The stories are heartbreaking and also very funny – not an easy combination to pull off!”
Margaret Drabble: Collected Stories by Lorrie Moore (Faber and Faber)
“One of my latest discoveries is Lorrie Moore, the American short story writer, recommended to me I think by Helen Simpson, also a fine writer of stories. I bought Moore’s Collected Stories and have enjoyed them very much. They are contemporary, off beat, tragi-comic, full of ordinary/extraordinary people leading lives on the edge. They provide a wonderful view of America today, as you never see it on the news or the movies.”
Sue Cook: Runaway by Alice Munro (Vintage)
“The sort of stories that stay with you for days after you finish reading them.”
Nick Turner: Lee Langley
“Langley’s work suggests that we should never think we are the rulers of our own universe: as a character states in A House in Pondicherry, ‘Legends can be built on a foundation of misconception. We can never be sure of understanding the past’. There again, the past is a rich place for exploration, and in Langley’s hands, even if it can never be fully grasped, the journey there is an enthralling one.”
You can access the full reading list here.
So, we want to hear from you!
Who are those great women short story writers from across the ages that you admire? Please post your recommendations on our Facebook page or tweet us your choices (@pgcwwn) with brief reasons why. All contributions will be collated and at the end of November a PG CWWN Short Story Reading List will be published on the website for you all to enjoy!
Renata Dalmaso, a PhD student from Brasil, won the PG CWWN/CWWA postgraduate bursary competition to attend the CWWA conference ‘Contemporary Women’s Writing: (Wo)man and the Body’ at the National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan.
The Fourth Biennial International Conference of the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association was, for the first time, held on the Asian continent, and, more specifically, in Taiwan in July. Delegates from all parts of the globe received a very warm welcome (literally, as temperatures were soaring in Taipei at the time) and got a chance to interact, discuss, and exchange ideas about the conference main theme: (Wo)Man and the Body. For three consecutive days the delegates — a very mixed group comprised of senior, early career, and postgraduate academics—followed a tight and impeccable schedule that accommodated several feature talks and addresses, as well as three concurrent panels.
The wide range of topics and perspectives was reflected in the selection of featured speakers. The conference opened with a keynote address by Professor Clare Hanson, focusing on new narratives of inheritance that interrogate the model of genetic reproduction and go beyond the gene. Writer addresses by Florence Howe, Linda Hogan, Shirley Lim, and Weichen Su added another layer to the discussions by presenting a perspective more closely associated with the production of literature itself, along with its implications such as publication, demand, choice of genre, audience, and style. Susan Friedman and Susan Watkins contributed to the debate raising questions about the body and embodiment in terms of memory, amnesia, and transcorporeality within specific works.
The fact that the conference was held for the first time in Asia worked out in two different ways. It allowed for a large number of Asian scholars and academics to participate in an event that due to costs and scheduling conflicts would have been much smaller if it happened at the other side of the globe. They comprised about a little over half of all the delegates. And second, it provided a new insight into the kind of research being undertaken there and the fascinating literature being produced that does not always cross the continents.
During the event we were lucky enough to attend a traditional Chinese dinner, one of the many treats provided by the organizing committee. Between estrangement and delight we were able to get a taste of another culture and learn a little bit about its histories and traditions. After the conference, a group of the delegates was even able to go on a full-day tour of Taipei, also arranged by the organizing committee, which worked as a great send off to this wonderful conference. On a more personal note, I felt particularly privileged to be able to attend this event in the capacity of a postgraduate bursary winner. To be able to combine academic work and cultural exchange in this way was something specially fortunate.
Renata Dalmaso, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brasil.